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Gainesville officials are seriously considering a hike in city residents’ garbage collection fees and plans for securing the solid waste division’s future financial independence.
Residents’ monthly bills are likely to rise by $1.25 by July 1. The proposed rate increase is lower than an original proposal that would have raised fees $2.83 monthly.
The monthly increase can be attributed to rising costs for landfill disposal and an effort by city officials to make the solid waste fund separate of the city’s general fund, which is paid for primarily by sales and property taxes.
Public Works Director David Dockery said the city has not raised rates related to landfill fees since July 2000. He said costs for dumping trash at the landfill have increased, however.
"We’ve paid more to disposal than we’ve taken in," Dockery said.
Another proposed rate increase will affect residents who request special services that require a truck to come and pick up piles that larger than normal curbside or trash pickup.
"Usually, it is where we’re coming out picking up the trimmings after somebody had their yard landscaped for the spring or had a tree cut down," Dockery said.
Currently, the department charges $25 for the service and disposal costs. The proposed budget would raise the cost of special services to $75, plus disposal fee.
Dockery said that in 2008, the department made 68 extra trips to provide special services. Most trips take more than an hour.
"We’ve been losing money essentially every time we run one of those," Dockery said.
Even with the increase in fees to offset costs, the solid waste division will have to use $92,000 of its surplus revenues to balance its budget and not rely on revenues from property and sales taxes, Gainesville’s Chief Financial Services Officer Melody Marlowe said.
Using the surplus kept city officials from raising trash fees any higher than the proposed hike, Marlowe said.
The department’s $2 million-plus annual expenses had some City Council members questioning Thursday whether the city should return to a once-a-week pickup schedule to save money.
City Manager Kip Padgett said city officials plan to study how the cost of the twice weekly pickup schedule compares to a less frequent schedule.
But Dockery said the once-weekly pick up could take more time for solid waste laborers who would have more garbage to carry, and may require trucks to stop at every address on their routes. It would also require new equipment. Dockery said start-up costs for less frequent service would be approximately $600,000.
The more frequent schedule, he said, allows laborers to stop in an area of a street and pick up trash from multiple homes in one stop.
"Twice a week has not hurt as much financially as we think," Mayor Myrtle Figueras said.